Photo by Joe Moylan
Bureau of Land Management firefighters backfire along Moffat County Road 59 South late Tuesday night while battling the Cedar Knob Fire about 20 miles south of Maybell. Backfiring is a containment strategy that entails firefighters going ahead of the fire and conducting prescribed burn operations.
Craig Firefighters with the Bureau of Land Management and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office are battling what officials have named the Cedar Knob Fire.
The wildfire, located on private land off Moffat County Road 59 South about 20 miles south of Maybell in an area known locally as Temple Draw, is thought to have been ignited by lightning.
Pete Shelton, who owns the property, said he was “raking” hay at 4 p.m. when he heard thunder and smelled smoke.
He immediately called the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
BLM firefighters arrived first, set up an incident command post and began battling the blaze but pulled the scene back when it appeared structures might be threatened by the fire.
Employees with the Moffat County road and bridge department, who also responded to the call, used bulldozers to create a fire line around Shelton’s structures.
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz and four county fire engines arrived on the scene shortly after BLM firefighters.
At about 9:30 p.m., Jantz reported that an air tanker had been called in and dropped two loads of fire retardant to help contain the fire.
No structure damage, injuries or fatalities were reported at that time.
Officials were unable to estimate the size of the fire, which still was active at 1 a.m.
Once Shelton’s structures appeared to be safe, firefighters began “backfiring” operations along C.R. 59.
Backfiring is a containment strategy where firefighters move out ahead of the blaze to conduct prescribed burns.
Once the fire reaches the “black,” it lies down because there is nothing left to burn, fire officials said.
The Cedar Knob Fire was the seventh active fire reported in the county Tuesday, Jantz said.
There are fires burning near Moffat County’s northern border with Wyoming and one to the west in the three corners area where the borders of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming meet.
“We get these dry lightning patterns, and it is amazing how fast these fires will run,” Jantz said. “When you factor in how big Moffat County is you realize our resources are so limited and so stretched out.”
BLM officials served as Incident Command of the Cedar Knob Fire. Moffat County Sheriff’s Office officials served in a supporting role.
The ICs will change in the morning, Jantz said. At that time, fire officials will evaluate available resources and develop a plan of attack.
With more dry lightning in the forecast, Jantz said he expects more reports of fire overnight and into Wednesday.
“We are now just entering Moffat County’s fire season,” Jantz said. “We have already been in it, but the second week of July is typically the official start for us.”